For America—It Was The Second Coming!
The heat and dust has settled. Narendra Modi’s whirlwind visit to the United States has come to an end. As Narendra Modi stormed into the consciousness of the world beyond India, analysts everywhere scrambled to interpret him for their readers and viewers. The visit has infused new energy and vigour into the see-saw relationship between India and the US, which had seen a fair degree of ups and downs in the previous years. Routinely described as “natural allies,” India and the United States have over the past decades been estranged partners, united more by a sense of expectations than by a shared approach to common challenges.
Modi visit to the US invokes nostalgia and a high degree of pride in being an Indian – free and unshackled. The first Narendra was Swami Vivekananda, a 19th-century philosopher and monk who propagated the Hindu faith in the United States. Modi often cites a speech by Vivekananda, born Narendra Nath Datta, to the Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1893, as a source of inspiration. “Let us remember the words of Swami Vivekananda and dedicate ourselves to furthering the cause of unity, brotherhood and world peace,” he had tweeted prior to his visit.
For the USA, this may have been diplomatic visit, but the objective of this visit has more to do with getting much needed investments into India. Modi is the best business development executive that India has had in a long time. He definitely has got his eyes on the future and also sees the potential for foreign investments to create employment opportunities and harness our demographic dividend. His meeting with the American CEO’s harped on this issue. Modi is a marketing guru; he has sold the story consistently across New York and Washington. He addressed the US-India Business Council saying, “I invite you all to come now or the queue will be too long. Let us do good for American investors and for my country.”
Modi and Obama discussed defence ties, energy security and the WTO issue. The defence deal was renewed for 10 years and both leaders reiterated their commitment to civil nuclear cooperation. Both sides conceded grounds on the trade facilitation agreement (TFA) and on World Trade Organisation (WTO) related matters. They now concede that they will need to take into consideration each other’s’ points of view as far as the controversial trade facilitation pact is concerned.
This visit drew hysterical media coverage and the huge presence of Indian Americans. Now three million strong, Indians are the most educated of all minorities in the US. This is an increasingly confident community, confident enough to have a self-congratulatory coming out party. The party at Madison Square Garden was quite a blowout. At 1 percent of America’s population, they are also at the cusp of political influence. Given how tight fought US presidential elections are, both parties must be eyeing them just for this reason. They will have political clout if they vote as a bloc at presidential elections, but there’s little indication of that so far in their voting patterns.
Obama said Modi is addressing “the needs of the poorest of the poor in India, and revitalizing the economy there.” He also praised the Indian leader for “his determination to make sure that India is serving as a major power that could help bring about peace and security for the entire world.” To sum it up, there have been many firsts—a joint by-line PM Narendra Modi and President Barack Obama writing an op-ed for the Washington Post together which said, “our relationship involves more bilateral collaboration than ever before,” but “the true potential of our relationship has yet to be fully realized.” As far as PM Modi is concerned, he has reinforced his image as a differentiated leader. Once the pomp and ceremony of the visit has calmed, the two countries must ensure that this visit was not a one-off attempt but rather the beginning of renewed attention to a relationship between two great powers.